The profit potential of day trading is perhaps one of the most debated and misunderstood topics on Wall Street. Internet day trading scams have lured amateurs by promising enormous returns in a short period. The idea that this kind of trading is a get-rich-quick scheme persists. Some people day trade without sufficient knowledge. But there are day traders who make a successful living despite—or perhaps because of—the risks.
There is a lot of hype around day trading. Some websites promote it as a way to get rich quick (it isn't), and others say it is impossible (also not true). There are lots of day traders around the world who find success and make a living off the markets, so the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes. If you've thought about day trading, it's worth your time to read through and understand the concepts discussed below, so you'll be better prepared for what to expect if you decide to proceed.
Retail investors are prone to psychological biases that make day trading difficult. They tend to sell winners too early and hold losers too long, what some call “picking the flowers and watering the weeds.” That’s easy to do when you get a shot of adrenaline for closing out a profitable trade. Investors engage in myopic loss aversion, which renders them too afraid to buy when a stock declines because they fear it might fall further.
The swing trader, therefore, is best positioned when markets are going nowhere – when indexes rise for a couple of days, then decline for the next few days, only to repeat the same general pattern again and again. A couple of months might pass with major stocks and indexes roughly at the same place as their original levels, but the swing trader has had many opportunities to catch the short-term movements up and down (sometimes within a channel).
Unlike a number of day trading strategies where you can have a win/loss ratio of less than 50% and still make money, scalp traders must have a high win/loss ratio. This is due to the fact that losing and winning trades are generally equal in size. The necessity of being right is the primary factor scalp trading is such a challenging method of making money in the market.
Day trading requires more money than just a deposit, though. Get setup with a good computer, one or two monitors, a trading platform and data feeds. With many brokers the data feeds for various markets cost money, so pick a market and stick with it. There is no reason to pay for data feeds you won't be using. Also, a consistent income isn't likely during the first six months to a year, so save up for living expenses if attempting to day trade as a primary income stream.
Assess how much capital you're willing to risk on each trade. Many successful day traders risk less than 1% to 2% of their account per trade. If you have a $40,000 trading account and are willing to risk 0.5% of your capital on each trade, your maximum loss per trade is $200 (0.005 x $40,000). Set aside a surplus amount of funds you can trade with and you're prepared to lose. Remember, it may or may not happen.